The international break is over and it’s back to the bread and butter of domestic league football. Thank goodness, I hear you cry! England’s second tier is infinitely more competitive than the friendly ‘knock-abouts’ we’ve been treated to over the last few days, and the promotion and relegation battles are nearing fever pitch.
Newcastle and Brighton retain a healthy six-point lead over those chasing an automatic promotion slot, although third-placed Huddersfield do have a precious game in hand. Leeds, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday occupy the other three play-off positions at the moment, but they are under pressure from the likes of Fulham, Norwich and Preston, while Villa and Derby may not have given up hope of a late charge either.
Two of the chasing pack meet on Saturday as Aston Villa welcome managerless Norwich to Villa Park, and the home side look a solid bet at attractive odds. Steve Bruce has seen his side emerge from a mid-season slump to win five of their last six games, and if they continue that form throughout the run-in, snatching a play off place is not entirely out of the question. The same can be said of a Norwich side that has bagged four points from two matches under Alan Irvine’s temporary charge, and they are only five points adrift of the top six.
Huddersfield are looking up rather than down as they try to wrestle one of the automatic spots from Brighton and Newcastle, and a home tie against Burton is just the sort of fixture to get them back on track after a surprise 4-0 thumping at the hands of Bristol City in the last round of games. The Robins are in a survival fight at the opposite end of the table, but eight points in the last four games has helped them move out of the bottom three. City pay a visit to Brentford on Saturday afternoon, and it’s a game that could result in plenty of goals.
Aston Villa v Norwich
First up Aston Villa look a shade overpriced at 69/502.38+1381.381.38-0.72 with BetVictor and Paddy Power.
This was a Premier League fixture last term, but as things stand neither side look destined for a quick return to the top flight. Norwich parted company with Alex Neil earlier in March as form continued to falter, but the Canaries are yet to appoint a replacement. Alan Irvine was asked to take temporary charge for two games, but unless an announcement is imminent in the next two days, he is likely to lead the team for a third time away at Villa.
Norwich have at least gained four points from those two games after a draw with Blackburn and a win against Barnsley, but it’s too early to say a corner has been turned. They fought back for the point at home to relegation-threatened Blackburn, and the Barnsley side they beat is badly out of form. Away form is a huge concern, and the Norfolk club would be 19th in the Championship table based on road form alone.
Villa have only been beaten twice at home all season, and have won the last three in front of their own fans. Steve Bruce had an immediate impact when he took over the job, but an extended slump saw them fail to win in ten games at the start of 2017. However, a 1-0 victory over Derby at the end of February has seen them embark on a sequence of five wins in six, during which time they’ve conceded just a single goal (away at Huddersfield).
Huddersfield v Burton
The Terriers are at home to Burton this weekend, and can be backed at 31/501.62-1610.62-1.610.62 with SkyBet and William Hill.
Burton are punching above their weight in the Championship, but manager Nigel Clough has overseen a spirited campaign so far. The Brewers are 21st in the table and just a point above the bottom three, but there is little doubt that the club would gladly take that position at the end of the season. Things could have been even better had they held on to a 3-1 half time lead over Brentford last time out, but they succumbed to four second half goals to go down 5-3 on home soil. Ironically it’s usually been a lack of goals that has been Burton’s problem this season, and they remain one of the division’s lowest scorers.
The Terriers may have been hit for four by Bristol City in their last fixture, but the previous 1-0 wins over Aston Villa and Brentford are probably a better indicator of their quality. Huddersfield beat Burton by that exact scoreline in the reverse fixture in December, and back on home soil – where they’ve won 13 of 18 – they are expected to emerge with three points.
Brentford v Bristol City
Finally over 2.5 goals is the call when Brentford host Bristol City, with a best price of18/251.72-1390.72-1.390.72 at Marathonbet.
The Bees took part in that eight-goal thriller up at Burton in their last fixture, while the Robins were thumping Huddersfield. The visitors desperation for survival here could lead to another open game with plenty of action.
City are just one point clear of the bottom three, but two wins and two draws in the last four games is decent form. They have little choice now but to attack every game in search of points, and that mindset can easily lead to risk-taking.
Brentford are playing like a side with nothing left to play for. Home defeats to Wolves and Huddersfield were followed up with that remarkable 5-3 win at Burton. With 50 points the Bees are ten clear of the drop zone, but twelve adrift of the play offs. It looks like a case of drifting into the summer holidays, which is often the cause of such inconsistent results.
Aston Villa to beat Norwich
Saturday 1st April, 15:00 BST
Huddersfield to beat Burton
Saturday 1st April, 15:00 BST
Brentford v Bristol City – Over 2.5 goals
Saturday 1st April, 15:00 BST
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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